The most favorite coffee mug you own, even brim-full, still only holds a single cup.
I sat watching the sentence. It didn’t try to escape the page of the writing pad. It never even moved. I thoughtfully sipped from my big moss-green THANKFUL mug, as I mentally rearranged the words yet again, wondering as all writers do if there’s a more effective way to say it.
Probably is. I knew first drafts of anything can always be improved. I knew if I kept refining it the sentence would really pop in a reader’s mind. I knew my freshly-poured cup of joe was setting there getting cold.
Will it be more meaningful after the seventh change?
Probably not. After four or five rewrites, an experienced writer has likely squoze out of that word combo everything usable.
I sat back, musing.
Fall had officially arrived on the calendar; yet it had begun weeks before in my heart. I’d been up as usual, showering and dressing before much of the rest of the world was awake. These crisp Fall mornings, though, gave me all the excuse I needed. Time to break out the faded Lee Premiums and tails-out soft flannel shirts with sleeves at half-roll. This morning’s is a gray/white/barn-red plaid. And the minute I sat down at my desk, my shoes came off. Is there anything that’s more satisfying and comfortable this time of year than broke-in jeans, butter-soft flannel shirts, and sock feet?
I’ve always loved the Fall and Winter seasons, enjoying from my very core the shifting palette of Creation’s colors. Decorations, even lights begin to emerge in homes, yards, and in businesses. My nose perks up at the scent of late summer hotdogs and burgers being slowly overlaid with the comforting, reassuring headiness of fireplaces extending smoky hands up in praise of Autumn’s unparalleled and breathtaking beauty.
I went over to the coffeemaker and refilled my cup. Halfway back, I reversed course and added cream and sugar. Huh. Must’ve been thinking about an old friend who used to chide me about doing that. Stirring it well, I popped it in the microwave to reheat it. I’m aware snooty Starbuck’s types are horrified at such, but I never waste good coffee. And this ain’t Starbuck’s. My present cup’s been known to say a dismissive “Haddy” to the one forgotten in the ‘wave.
Seated again, I revisited the sentence:
The most favorite coffee mug you own, even brim-full, still only holds a single cup.
I’d been spending five weeks embellishing a set of sayings entitled, COFFEEOLOGY. This week’s was number four, Take Life One Cup At A Time. I’d been thinking about what that means and what it looks like in my mirror. What does it mean to take life one cu—
“Oh, happih–day-yay! Oh, happeh–day . . . Woah, happih–DAY-hay! Oh, happeh–daaay . . .” It took me a few seconds to sift through my phone’s ringtones I’d set for friends who rated one. Not all do. You get that. Let’s see…
Trixie. Jimmie’s Diner. I picked my phone up and clicked it on as I was being taught how to watch and pray.
“I remember when phones just rang, and we actually had to get up and go to wherever they were. How are you, Trixie? Are you living rejoicing every day?”
There was a split second of that kind of shocked silence, then her throaty contralto laugh boomed across my phone’s tiny speaker. I mean it tried to. Smart phones don’t exactly ‘boom’, do they? I figured she’d be amused. I’m an amusing guy. I even autoamuse from time to time. Who needs an audience when one is this hilarious?
“Granger, this is why I love havin’ ya’ll around. You always got somethin’ encouragin’ ta tayull somebodeh.”
Trixie isn’t her real name. Jimmie’s is a 50’s theme diner where the women servers wear poodle skirts, bobby socks, big hair and scarves; and the men wear black slacks, white shirts, black bowties, and soda jerk hats. Each franchise has the same collection of names, so this ‘Trixie’ or ‘Bobbie Sue’ won’t be the same person across the city. And though Trixie right now sounds like the daughter of a hard-working black mechanic and school teacher, this ‘Trixie’ has earned degrees and a fearless demeanor that cows wolverines. She rarely calls me, so I waited. I’m good at that.
I’m good at that, too. Waiting and listening . . .
“Listen, Granger, I’m on break, so I’ll get to it. When somebody feels like they got to end a relationship, why does one or the other feel like they got to come up with a reason to hate the one they’re cutting loose to justify it?”
I knew my silence as I absorbed her question wouldn’t bother her. We’d sat and talked before. She knew my habit when listening is to think it through and only then probe with questions to further clarify. I sat brooding over my java for a few more seconds.
“If I’m getting you, you want to know why it feels necessary to create dislike, gossip, or hatred in order to make breaking up feel better.” She said yes.
“The only reason I’ve been able to think of is they want to recruit supporters or a cheering section, if you will, to boost their decision in their own eyes. If it’s possible to blacken the reputation of their former friend, then it makes the other former partner feel righteous in their choice.”
Trixie (slower and softer): “What if there’s nothing to hate? You’ve seen this explosion of pop-psych on Facebook that’s always sayin’ stuff like IF THEY DON’T SEE YOUR TRUE WORTH, UNLOAD THEM AND WALK AWAY. THEY AREN’T WORTH YOUR TIME. You’ve seen those, right?” Suddenly it triggered in my spirit.
“Trixie, this isn’t hypothetical, is it?” I could hear her trying to keep from breaking down.
“No. You want to know what I hate? I HATE those STUPID memes, because they don’t speak for me at all. The only ones that do are those that talk about YOU KNOW IT’S REAL LOVE WHEN ALL YOU WANT IS FOR THE OTHER ONE TO BE HAPPY AND FULFILLED IN LIFE, EVEN IF THAT MEANS WITH SOMEONE ELSE.”
“That where you are?” She said it is. I asked her if she still read after me, and she indicated she does – and even poked me again for not being faster with the books I’m working on.
“Okay. Listen, when you called, I’d been sitting and wondering how to apply today’s little bit of Coffeeology. You just gave me a great prompt. Let me get back to that so you can read it on your next break. In the meantime, let me give you the title: TAKE LIFE ONE CUP AT A TIME. Do you mind waiting to read my response?”
She said that worked for her, that she needed to get back on the clock, but would be thinking about what I’d said, and what the title implies. I had no doubt she would.
Here, then, are my thoughts in response to Trixie’s call, using COFFEEOLOGY: TAKE LIFE 1 CUP AT A TIME as a springboard.
You’d look a little silly drinking out of two cups of coffee at the same time. The same is true about holding a deep, abiding love for two people at the same time.
Human relationships can survive anything up to and sometimes including rejection and loss of trust, although the latter creates very real permanent scars that never quite heal. Whether we’re talking about a strong, decades-long friendship, or a profound, longstanding love, both can and have survived even when dealing with physical distance and the general busyness and business of daily living.
Certainly, if one or the other has consciously damaged that relationship, there’s ample reason for you to sever it in anger and sorrow, and walk away. There are always plenty of people sitting on the sidelines who’ll fill your ears with anything you want to hear about how lousy ‘they’ are, and how right you are in getting away from them.
And what about that relationship where you both knew it was realer than real (thank you, Dr. Seuss) and truer than true, but came to a realization God had different things in mind? I began freewriting as I pondered this.
“Ever had God plunk someone you believed lost to you right before you and relight your pilot? To learn you, confide in you and stick by you in a way no other has? Has God brought you close, closer, closest ~ and then have them removed from your life as if never there? Sometimes it crushes to the point you just erase all messages, delete all numbers, square your shoulders, and move on. But that doesn’t work. Your mind will play tricks like, “Well, maybe it’s just that the timing’s not right, right now.”
“Others crowd around, congratulating you with things like, “He/she never was right for you, anyway.” You know the drill. Those kind are always around, always gleeful to tear someone else down – yet never realizing how much that person meant to you. Hating them – manufacturing a reason to push them away – is not your only option. In fact, if you’re a Christian, you might want to pay attention to this.
“You don’t have to forget who and what that person was to you. You can’t. If there was love involved, and mutual esteem? If you shared in faith and helped build one another’s personal walk with God? Terrific! Celebrate it, don’t hate it. Consider how you both grew through all that. Maybe this wasn’t primarily about you; but God was using you to do something vital in their life ~ to help them punch on through some life experiences that had gotten them stuck. Believe it or not, they’ll never forget who you were to them, either. Yet you must accept they aren’t that person to you any more. What you thought was God’s hand at work in both your lives most certainly was, but not in the ways you thought. What you believed to be a ‘forever’ thing was not. God knew they needed someone unique and personally special to come alongside them, giving them the time, the nonjudgmental ear, and the unconditional love to help them get beyond what had happened to them.
“He brought them you. You gave it and them your best. Now they’ve healed and have moved on with their life. Noble? Tragic? Only if you let it get you stuck there. God needed someone He could trust to strengthen, listen to, and care for them without reservation or demands, and He chose you. You bet it hurts. Stings like fire. That’s why God can’t trust just anybody with that kind of mission. That’s why the two suggestions I’ll offer you help. Few have the grit in their spirit to handle this without sulking and losing spiritual ground.
“Do you remember Jesus saying, “I will never leave you or forsake you”? Physically, He did. Yet we all know what it’s like, when feeling so alone, to have the warmth of His grace lovingly laid in your soul’s lap like a half-grown kitten. We all know while Jesus physically is no longer here, His Presence, and His powerful, undeniable love has gone nowhere. I think a better meme to think about is the one which reads, “Never leave someone who touches your soul more than your body.”
“I suggest two things to help you not merely survive the loss of someone that special to you, but to overcome and thrive because of sharing their love, enduring friendship and support. First, you’ll both need to gently, lovingly lay those shared experiences to rest in God’s arms, then walk on into His newest adventure for you both. Next, pursue the things you love doing, for God placed that in your heart. Do them so well that people can’t help but notice you and see Him at work in and through you.
“This way, every time you remember that special person, whether a month, a year, or a decade later, your heart will flood with great memories of him or her; and your spirit will be buoyant with prayerful and loving care toward them. That, I believe, is most pleasing to God in any relationship. The Adversary is into discord and hatred. God is The Champion of Love.”
In other words, do your moving on with faith-filled, forward-seeing purpose. Find the niche God’s uniquely formed just for you ~ and get after it. To follow our title, empty that cup, rinse it out, and then let God fill it with a brand-new, fresh cup full of His grace.
To all the Trixies out there? I pray this helps. I pray you keep growing through whatever loss you’re experiencing, turning it into fantastic gain. And I’ll be praying for God to fill your rinsed-out cup to overflowing with everything He’s been waiting to serve you.
So. There you go: Coffeeology #4: Take Life 1 Cup At A Time.
© D. Dean Boone, September 2018